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Some Do’s and Don’ts of Budgerigar Breeding

Dr John Baker

By Dr John R. Baker

Now the budgerigar breeding season is on us once again it is an opportune time to list some do’s and don’ts which may assist getting nore eggs and, in particular, more chicks from the eggs which are laid.

Budgerigars, as kept by fanciers, produce far fewer chicks for the number of eggs laid than any other bird kept for exhibition and recent work undertaken at the University of Liverpool, sponsored by the Lancashire and Cheshire Budgerigar Society has attempted to shed some light on this. This article sets out some of the points which have emerged from this research together with a few results from other people’s work.



1 – Use clean nest boxes, preferably washed out and disinfected at the end of the previous breeding season. Dirty boxes can carry germs which can live for years and these germs can ifect eggs and chicks with disasterous results. Preferably use cardboard nest boxes which can be disposed of after use.

Clean Nest Box

All nest boxes should be thoroughly cleaned between breeding seasons using a disinfectant.

2 – The effect of using a clean nest box is nullified if the box, concave and bedding, are allowed to become soiled.

Dirty bedding should be replaced as required, once the full round has been laid most hens will not be too disturbed by this. If no bedding us used the concave should be washed regularly, particularly once the chicks start hatching otherwise dirt which accumulates on it can cause illness and death. The box and all its fittings should be thoroughly washed and disinfected between rounds if there is a gap between the chicks leaving the nest and the beginning of the next round. If sawdust or shavings are used these should be exposed to the air for a few days before being put in the nest box.

Nest Box with chicks

3 – If, in spite of the fanciers best efforts, some eggs become soiled attempts should be made to clean them otherwise germs will get into the eggs from this dirt. Eggs can be cleaned by putting them in water at 40 to 42 degrees centigrade (the temperature is critical, use a thermometer) then gently wash them with a sponge while using disposable plastic gloves to hold them.

Having got the hygiene of the breeding environment right what should be done about prospective parents?

Birds Breeding Condition

Make sure your birds are in breeding condition.

1 – Make sure that the birds are in breeding condition, there is little point pairing birds not in peak condition.

This is not as easy as it sounds in that one can usually tell if the hens are fit; more difficulty can be experienced with the cocks. Well –fed healthy cocks are only fertile for approximately six months each year for a few weeks at a time. Telling when these fertile periods are is not easy even with the experienced eye. If required, cocks can be checked by a veterinary surgeon to see if they are in one of their fertile periods.

Cocks in Breeding Condition

Healthy cocks are only fertile for approximately six months each year for a few weeks at a time.

2 – Both cocks and hens should, if at all buff, have the large body contour feathers cut off, as during mating these feathers can slide over the vent and stop proper pairing.

The feathers should not be plucked because this is painful and they will also regrow over the breeding period. There is no truth in the old wives’ tale of the guide feathers which are supposed to assist the cock in locating the hen’s vent.

3 – Allow the parent birds as much exercise as possible which means using the biggest breeding cages that your birdroom will allow. Some recent work from the U.S.A. has demonstrated that, all other things being equal, the more exercise the birds have the greater will be the number of eggs which hatch. In the American paper the author got the best results with birds he forced to fly by chasing them about…. I am not sure I would recommend this however.

4 – Budgerigars are birds that form quite strong pair-bonds and if these are “ignored” or not broken the number of eggs produced can be low. Ideally hens and cocks should be kept separate when not being used for breeding and preferably out of earshot as the pair-bond can be maintained by the birds’ calls.

Provided that a balanced diet is fed – preferably a commercial one such as Trill, there is no need for many of the fancy diets fed. If you want to make up your own feed use a good quality mixed canary and millet, with a protein supplement, and a proprietary vitamin and mineral mix. There can be problems in hard water areas, in as much as birds given this to drink can produce eggs with thick shells and sometimes chicks will have difficulty hatching from these, so that bottles water or boiled water is preferable during the breeding season.


Keep Records

Finally 5 – Do keep records, not only of the number of chicks which hatch but also if a particular pair does not produce chicks, or if failure to hatch is due to clear eggs or dead-in-shells. This will help not only in identifying infertile birds, but also indicate where problems may be so that if advice is sought (as it should be if the breeding season does not come up to expectations) these records will be available to help amend the situation.


Many Don’ts are the opposite of the Do’s but there are a few specific things which should be avoided.

1 – Budgerigars will breed over a wide range of temperatures, in fact apart from the comfort of the fancier and to stop the water in the drinkers freezing, there is probably no need to provide heat in the Winter. What the birds will not tolerate is wide temperature fluctuations; birds kept in green-house type buildings which get very hot by day and very cold by night will not breed satisfactorily.


2 – Do not handle eggs. Many fanciers handle eggs frequently and when asked why few are able to give good reasons. The main reason why eggs should not be handled is that germs, which all fanciers have on their skin however much it is washed, can get onto the egg and cause dead-in-shell. If you feel you must handle the eggs or if you need to keep the nest box clean, use cheap disposable plastic gloves or the special egg handling forceps. To see if eggs are clear they can be examined in the nest with one of the Laser torches produced for the purpose.

3 – Fanciers often mark eggs (which also involves handling the eggs). If you feel the need to do this use a soft pencil rather than a water or spirit based marker so there is no residue that can penetrate the egg shell.

4 – Handling and marking eggs does disturb some hens which may lead to chilling of eggs, and if done frequently can lead to eggs drying out which results in chicks drying or not being able to hatch or the hatching of weak chicks.

5 – Some fanciers like to increase the humidity in nest boxes. If this is done one should use moistened peat or sponges under the bedding or concave. The bedding itself should not be moistened (except perhaps just before the eggs hatch) as it can stop eggs hatching by stopping or slowing the evaporation of water through the shell. This has to take place as eggs have to lose a fixed amount of water during incubation, if too little or too much is lost problems result.

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